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After teaching 50 years of 35 students a week, that is 50 years x 52 weeks x 35 students = 91,000 private 1/2 hour lessons that I have given to come up with the conclusions you are about to read. I guess you might put me in the expert category for coming to these assessments of the way the average human being thinks in connection with this particular instrument.
Let’s catalogue the different types of thinking (senses) that are used in perceiving music.
1. Hearing is obviously the one sense that is undeniably used to experience music on the listening or performing level. It is glaringly obvious to me that there are many different levels of the ability to hear what is going on around us. If we are only considering the ear itself, anyone has heard of all the different types of hearing problems from nerve deafness to damage to the organ itself. It goes even deeper than that. A lot of our inability to hear is caused by selective listening and things of this kind. I would guess that even the sound of an annoying repeated sound (someone's voice) could be filtered out and one trained to not recognize that particular pitch or vowel sound etc. I could go on and on with a list of dozens or thousands of imagined possibilities. Anyone denying that the brain is powerful enough to accomplish such a task had better look closer.
Another aspect of the hearing subject is the fact that sometimes we think we hear things that we don’t. The ability to retain the sound of someone's’ voice is common to most of us but not to all. It is plain to see that some people know voices over the phone after one syllable and others need to ask who it is. Who knows how much of this is ignorance or how much is an act. Some have to have time to rehearse what to say out of performance anxiety so they “buy time” by acting like they don’t know who is on the other end. There is a little buffer in the brain just like the computer that holds on to the last few seconds that are heard and many use this to filter out what they don’t want and when they realize that they do want it they say ”HUH?” and listen to this little cache that the brain has to iterate a sound byte. This is really annoying to me as a teacher. Someone pays me 82.5 cents a minute for my fifty years of experience I would think they would have sense enough to listen to me. Another thing that is extremely common is when the student plays their guitar right over me saying the most important thing I tell them in a half hours time. This comes from nervous anxiety or fear of finding out how much they do not know, a form of denial.
Some people can hear a song in their “minds’ ear” months or years after last hearing it. Some can tell one note from another just as easily as you and I can tell different colors apart when we see them. This does not give them perfect pitch but it is surely an important element. Perfect pitch involves hearing a note, remembering it as well as some type of label that we put on it like “C”. Some people have perfect pitch and don’t even play an instrument. This is why it is actually painful for some to listen to a guitar band for example that tunes relative to each other but not in concert pitch. Just because someone possesses these talents does not mean that they pursued playing an instrument. The other side of the coin are these fools that think they are music geniuses for some silly reason but are too lazy and undisciplined to tackle the challenge. I have a friend who thinks he would be a master musician because he can tell you what some songs are before the words start. HA! Another told me “music is my life” and I stated “I didn’t know that you played.” She said ”I don’t, but I listen to music constantly.” My response was “listening to music is your life.”
In my 40 years of full time tutoring I have seen the ability to follow directions, focus, concentrate, listen, speak, follow through and basically do menial tasks deteriorate miserably. I could theorize about the hundreds of ways that the world is a different place etc. to figure out why these things are, but what I really wonder is what will it be like in 40 more years?